There is a memorable lesson I have done with the children at church on Sunday mornings. I invite all the children to come forward and sit in the front pew. I hand each of them a stick and after the count down, “3-2-1 go!” They all break their sticks in two.
This is always followed by laughter!
Then I have them bring me the broken sticks and together we gather them into one bundle and bind them with a string before asking, “Do you think we can break these sticks now?” And, no matter how many tricks we try that bundle of sticks will not break.
The moral of the story being, we are stronger in community then when we try to do life all on our own. We all need to reach out to others both in giving support and in receiving it; this is how we become strong together. As Mother Teresa said, “We all belong to each other.”
I thought of this lesson recently as I witnessed a widow move from the home he and his wife shared. After 60 years of marriage she had died rather suddenly and in his grief he decided to go it alone. However, after 7 months he was ready to step back into community. After touring many lovely options he chose the right one for himself. So with help from family and friends he moved his most cherished belongings into a smaller place inside a retirement community.
At first he felt lost and his grief seemed to deepen. However, those already living in this community were quick to knock on his door, invite him out for conversation, coffee and one afternoon for musical entertainment.
It was this afternoon that changed everything. The musical guest stopped part way through her performance and from the stage she noticed him. They made eye contact and with his smile and nod of the head she knew it was him; a fellow musician whom she had shared the stage with many times in the past. She quickly introduced him to everyone and shared a few memories of their performances.
Before leaving that afternoon this man was asked if he would help pull together a “home band” for the residence since there already was a pianist, guitarist and a singer. What they needed was a drummer and a manager; would he mind being both?
He entered his apartment later that day and knew he was home.
Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Catholic Priest, author, theologian and best known for his ability to create and foster community for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities wrote, “The best of community does give one a deep sense of belonging and well-being; and in that sense community takes away loneliness.”
May we all be blessed with a sense of belonging and may we foster belonging for others,